Way back in August 2011, the Obama administration announced that under the Affordable Care Act contraception would be covered by insurance plans as preventive care without a co-pay. Though the initial reaction was silence, conservatives were eventually told to be outraged, and a controversy ensued -- should employers subsidize contraception even if they find birth control morally offensive?
In February 2012, the White House responded to complaints by unveiling a compromise: religiously affiliated institutions won't be required to pay for birth control directly, but women who work for these employers will still have access to the same preventive care as everyone else.
The Obama administration proposed broader latitude Friday for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, one that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage. [...]
The new proposal aims to find middle ground between faith-based nonprofits, such as universities and hospitals, that have a religious opposition to contraceptives, and women's health advocates who vociferously supported the required coverage of birth control without co-payment.
It all seems a bit silly, but then again, so does conservatives' preoccupation with birth control.
How would this work? Let's say you're a woman who works at a religiously affiliated university and you want to take birth control bills, which school administrators have decided are too sinful to pay for. Your employer will offer you a health care plan that doesn't cover the medication, but the university's insurance company will then automatically create a new, separate insurance policy that will cover your contraception for free.
You still get the pills, the preventive care is still available with no co-pay, and your employer no longer worries about subsidizing -- or even being tangentially involved with -- your health care choices that it might find religiously offensive.
I don't doubt that many on the right will find new reasons to object to this new compromise -- it doesn't cover private-sector employers who also oppose birth control -- but Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, approves:
"This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work. Of course, we are reviewing the technical aspects of this proposal, but the principle is clear and consistent. This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.
"Birth control is a basic and essential component of women's preventive health care. Women have been fighting for access to birth control for decades, and this is a historic advance for both health care and equality. As one of the nation's leading providers of reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood has led the charge for access to contraception for nearly a century, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that women have access to birth control without hurdles or co-pays."
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, added, "We applaud the Obama administration's unwavering support for implementing the Affordable Care Act in ways that will ensure women have access to basic preventive care, including contraception. That is a fundamental promise of reform, and a critical advance for women's health."